Inspiring Orientation: getting users started, stage 2

In June 2012, I reviewed MetaHarpers’ The Inspiring Orientation, an installation intended to be part gallery, part orientation course, with various interactive elements intended to teach new users the basics of getting around in Second Life – walking, flying, chatting, using the camera, sitting, etc.

The originia Inspiring Orientation - from the outside
The original Inspiring Orientation – from the outside

Opened to the public on February 5th, The Inspiring Orientation, Stage 2 now takes the concept a step further by providing additional interactive lessons covering such diverse subjects as in-world shopping, instant messaging, inventory management, profile creation, in-world combat and games, and exploration. At the same time, it revamps the original installation, and incorporates features such as media-on-a-prim. So what is it like?

On arrival, the installation appears familiar – the welcome area is the same as its first iteration, and the familiar tablet-like guides are still there. However, on stepping inside, it is clear things have been changed. Basic movement – walking and jumping – is quickly dealt with before moving onto the basics of camera control, which used to come somewhat later in the piece, and which is dealt with in a more compact manner. The rest of the initial elements of the piece remain largely unchanged until one arrives at the teleport portals, which in the original more-or-less marked the end of the process. While people can still teleport away at this point, a sign points the way to the new additions waiting to be explored.

Inspiring Orientation Stage 2
The Inspiring Orientation Stage 2

Here people can learn about shopping, instant messaging, profiles, inventory (including attachments, clothing layers, etc), dealing with “hidden objects” and combat, all in discrete units linked by footpaths, chair lifts and ladders.

There are several routes around this part of the installation, which can lead to a degree of repetition in instructions (accessing inventory, for example). However, this is no bad thing in that it allows for easy re-caps on lessons and pointers.

The Inspiring Orientation Stage 2
The Inspiring Orientation Stage 2

The inclusion of combat options might at first glance seem a little odd, but it actually does make sense given that, while “Second Life is not a game”, many people actually do join SL in anticipation of engaging in roleplay (which can include combat elements) and engaging in combat-related activities (the dreaded zombie hunting beloved of the official SL promo videos, etc). Ergo, getting people started on how weapons, HUDs, mouselook, etc., all work within the realms of combat isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Whither the context menu?
Whither the context menu?

The use of media-on-a-prim in the portal area, is both new and subtle. Drawing on the Destination Guide to provide a click-through list of destinations and descriptions related to the selected portal, it does much to present users with far more choice on where they go next, and on seeing where they are likely to meet other users.

That said, there are a few niggles with the update. Given this is an exhibition intended to demonstrate a new user orientation, the almost exclusive use of screen shots of a popular TPV is surprising. Yes, it may weel be the most popular viewer in use in SL, but given this is a new user experience, and presumably something the creators would hope users would encounter early-on in their explorations of Second Life, I can’t help but feel that there should perhaps be more emphasis on the official viewer – particularly as this is the viewer the majority of new users will initially be using when they log-into SL.

It could also be argued that other essentials are missed or given scant explanation as well – such as the Marketplace, the use of the world map, search and the concept of teleports (although teleports is touched upon throughout the exhibit, if not fully explained). However, the piece is a work-in-progress (the team behind it plan to move it to a location of its own at the conclusion of its time at the LEA), so these are matters which may still be addressed.

One thing that does still disappoint me with the update, though, is that it still fails to reference the viewer’s own means of providing help to users. The How To guide still goes unmentioned, as does the Help options in the menu. The How To guide is certainly worth a reference, given it forms an easy aide-mémoire to some of the lessons given during the orientation tour.

Some might argue that The Inspiring Orientation fails to offer any significant advantages over a more straightforward approach to user orientation such as that provided by the Phoenix Firestorm Support Region. In some respects, I’m inclined to agree; the latter has the beauty of keeping to a KISS approach which make progress perhaps seemingly less time-intensive. However, The Inspiring Orientation perhaps offers greater visual and aural stimulation, and thus may better hold a new user’s attention than a more traditional “walk-and-read” approach.

Whether it is viewed as a prototype / alternative approach to engaging new users and unlocking some of the mysteries of the viewer or whether it is seen purely in terms of an art installation which encompasses learning experiences, The Inspiring Orientation remains an interesting insight into how an engaging and interactive user experience might be built. As such, it has always made for  an interesting visit, and the Stage 2 updates provide plenty of additional food for thought, particularly for those interested in the new user experience ethos.

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OBR: photo contest and official SL video launch

one-billion

One Billion Rising in both RL and SL will be taking place on February 14th. Work is well underway for a in-world events, including a number of regions dedicated to the day.

To further mark the event, the organisers of One Billion Rising in Second Life are hosting a special photo contest and this weekend will also launch the official One Billion Rising In SL dance video.

Photo Competition

The photo competition, which opened on February 3rd, will see the five winners entries displayed on the official One Billion Rising blog, and will be featured through the day itself. The rules are requirements are straightforward:

  • Entrants must wear the official OBR T-Shirt (available free from the One Billion Rising Information location at Prim Perfect Headquarters
  • Photos should be submitted to the One Billion Rising in Second Life Flickr group
  • Photos must be submitted by midnight (SLT) on February 13, 2013
  • Photos must be PG (nude or distasteful photo(s) will be disqualified)
  • There should be no additional text on the photo, although post-processing with editing software is permitted
  • Only two entries allowed per person
  • One Billion Rising in Second Life reserves full rights to all photos submitted.

OBR In SL: The Video

Break the Chain is the official anthem of One Billion Rising, and is featured in a specially commissioned video. To mark the event in Second Life, a group of volunteers have been busy working at locations across the grid to present an in-world interpretation of the OBR dance, using the anthem itself, with special choreography by Pyper Dollinger and Tatiana Kurri.

OBR music video recording (image courtesy of One Billion Rising In SL /
OBR music video recording (image courtesy of One Billion Rising In SL /  Scheherazade Storyteller

The video is due to be premiered this weekend through the One Billion Rising In SL blog. In the meantime, here’s the original video.

Further Information

About One Billion Rising

One in three women on the planet is raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is ONE BILLION WOMEN violated. One billion daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, lovers and friends. On February 14, 2013, V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men to dance across every country.

For more information go to http://www.onebillionrising.org/

About V-Day

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. In 2012, over 5,800 V-Day benefit events took place produced by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $90 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, reopened shelters, and funded over 14,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. Over 300 million people have seen a V-Day benefit event in their community.

For more information go to http://www.vday.org/

SL projects news week 6 (3): viewer and CHUI, SSB, materials

SL Beta Viewer and CHUI

As noted in part 2 of this report, a new beta release of the SL viewer was made on February 6th. The crash rates for this version, some 48 hours on from the release, are reported by Oz Linden as being “remarkably low”, with some 1400 users / half-a-million minutes logged against it to date. If this continues through the weekend, the chances are the code will go to a release version of the viewer early in week 7 (week commencing Monday 11th February).

If things go according to plan, there is likely to be one more 3.4.5 beta release prior to a merge taking place with the Communications Hubs User Interface (CHUI) code.

Currently, the CHUI code is now fully merged with the viewer-dev code, although it is slightly out-of-step with the beta code. Once the merge to beta has been made, and with everything else going on with the viewer, it is anticipated that CHUI will have “a nice long run,” as a beta release.

Server-side Baking and Pile-on Test Pre-announcement

Avatar bake fail
SSB: looking to solve avatar bake fail

Nyx Linden and his team continue to work on server-side baking (SBB), both on the server and the viewer side of things. An update to the project viewer and viewer code was made back on January 30th, and Nyx has indicated that another push is due early in week 7.

The major news on this project is that a pile-on test is in the planning stage. While dates and times have yet to be confirmed, this is being targeted for later in February on Aditi, and the Lab is looking to have people running a Server-side baking viewer (e.g. the project viewer or any TPV which has implemented the necessary viewer-side code) attend and help provide a thorough load test for the new code.

The test will require viewers to be enabled for certain types of data logging in order to ensure LL gather the relevant information. Details on what will be required will be passed on to those TPVs which indicate they can participate in the test. For those individuals wishing to help out, but whose preferred viewer has not enabled the SSB code by the time of the test, the LL project viewer will have the necessary logging options already enabled. Further details on the proposed test will be published here as they become available.

In terms of TPV integration, it has been confirmed that the SSB code changes for the viewer impact RLVa. Details of the overall impact is unclear, other than RLVa  is affected in several areas and Kitty Barnett is working to fix issues. However, this does mean that integration of the SSB code has slowed for some TPVs.

Materials Processing and Project Viewer

As previously reported, the server-side code is on the BlueSteel RC channel, and there are no apparent issues with the code which might prevent its wider distribution. There are still some issues to resolve with materials processing, which means that a project viewer may be delayed another week or so.

Some of the problems appear to have been network related. When testing recent versions of the pre-release materials viewer on a materials-enabled region of the Main grid, it was noted that they (quote) “significantly added” to the network load for the test region, impacting performance. These problems required additional investigation in order to resolve, and it is hoped that they have now been “wrestled to the ground”. There were also some reports of a couple of things still to be fixed in the UI, although it appears that, again, these have now been dealt with.

Given this, and while a publicly available project viewer appearing in week 7 is “not out of the question”, the Lab appear to be looking at week 8 (commencing Monday 18th February) as the week in which a materials project viewer will surface. In the meantime, the recommendation remains that TPVs do not pull code from the current materials code repository for integration into their own viewers.

The look of things to come: Materials Processing
The look of things to come: Materials Processing should have a public viewer available in the next two weeks

FMODex

Oz confirmed that the Lab now has FMODex working internally on both Windows and Linux, and passed on thanks to members of the Singularity team for their work in making this possible. The code is to be made available for wider testing by TPVs “Pretty Soon”TM.

As per my last update on the matter, it is unlikely that LL will be able to pre-build the code for TPVs, but the goal is to have something which is not “dramatically different” to how TPVs previously obtained the required code. However, with all that is happening at the moment, it is possible that those TPVs which haven’t already looked to using FMODex may continue “as is” with FMOD until some of the pressure is off in terms of other viewer projects which are rolling forward.

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Information source: TPV Dev meeting, Friday 8th February, 2013. There is unlikely to be an official audio recording of this meeting due to it being relocated due to ongoing issues with the Hippotropolis region.